The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 17

 “Maybe they’re not so bad off, living there. From the day I came to NewYork I assumed Manhattan was the only place to be. I grew up in White Bear Lake. That’s in Minnesota, and I know it sounds as though you’d have nothing but moose and Eskimos for neighbors, but it’s actually more or less a suburb of the Twin Cities. Well, I got off the North-west flight with an MFA from the University of Minnesota and I don’t know what else. A sketch pad, I suppose, and the phone number of a friend of a friend. I spent the night at the Chelsea Hotel, and the next day I had a share in an apartment on Tenth Street east of Tompkins Square Park. If there’s a better definition of culture shock, I don’t know what it is.”

 “But you adjusted.”

 “Oh, yes. I didn’t stay long in Alphabet City because it just didn’t feel safe to me. Nothing ever happened to me, but I kept hearing about people on the block who’d been mugged or raped or stabbed, and as soon as I could I moved to Madison Street. That’s on the Lower East Side.”

 “I know where it is. It’s not exactly Sutton Place either.”

 “No, it’s a slum. Anywhere else in America it would all be torn down, but it wasn’t as drug-infested as East Tenth Street and I felt safer there. My first place was a share, but then I got an apartment of my own, three little rabbit-warren rooms in a tenement where the hallways smelled of mice and urine and marijuana smoke. And nothing ever happened, nobody ever bothered me on the street or in the building, nobody ever forced the door or came in off the fire escape. Not once. And then I met a man who swept me off my feet and took me away from all that and moved me into this incredible place, everything’s new, nothing smells, there’s an attendant in the lobby twenty-four hours a day.

 “And here I am,” she said, her voice rising. “Here I am, sitting on a new sofa with my feet on a new oriental rug, everything’s new, and I’m looking out my window and I can see for miles. And I’m here in this safe place, this clean safe place, and I’ve got a dead baby and a dead husband, and how did that happen? Would you mind explaining that to me? How did it happen?”

 I didn’t say anything. I don’t suppose she expected an an-swer. I watched her face while she worked to get control of herself. It was a perfect oval, the features regular and even. She was dressed neatly, wearing a dove-gray cardigan over a matching crew-neck sweater and a pleated navy skirt. Her shoes were black and plain, with one-inch heels. The overall effect was of a grown-up parochial-school girl, but what had been prettiness six months ago now verged on beauty.

 “I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought I had myself under con-trol.”

 “You do.”

 “Can I get you something to drink? We’ve got scotch and vodka, and I don’t know what else. Oh, and there’s beer in the refrigerator. And I’ve got to stop saying ‘we.’ What can I get you, Matt?”

 “Nothing just now, thanks.”

 “Coffee? There’s some made, and I think that’s what I’m going to have. I’m afraid it’s not decaf, if that matters.”

 “Actually, I prefer regular.”

 “So do I, but Glenn could only drink decaf at night. We went to a restaurant a few months ago and the waiter actually asked if we wanted decaf or non-decaf. Can you imagine?”

 “I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.”

 “I hope I never hear it again. How do you take your cof-fee? Your non-decaf coffee?”

 I told her and she went into the kitchen to get it. When she came back I was at the window looking down at Hell’s Kitchen or Clinton, as you prefer. I could see DeWitt Clin-ton Park and wondered if TJ was down there.

 She said, “You can’t quite see it from here. The corner of that building’s in the way.” She was at my shoulder, point-ing. “I went over there the day after it happened, or maybe it was the day after that. I don’t remember. Just to see for my-self. I don’t know what I expected. It’s just a street corner.”

 “I know.”

 “Have you been?”


 “I put your coffee on the table. Tell me if it’s all right.” I sat down and tasted it. It was good, and I told her so. “Good coffee’s a weakness of mine,” she said, “and decaf never tastes right to me. I don’t know why.” She sat down and drank some of her own coffee. “This is going to be hard to get used to,” she said. “Being a widow. I was just getting used to the idea of being a wife.”

 “How long were you married?”

 “It was a year in May, so that’s what, seventeen months? Not quite a year and a half.”

 “When did you move in here?”

 “The day we got back from the honeymoon. When we met Glenn had a studio apartment in Yorkville and of course I was still on Madison Street. After the wedding we flew to Bermuda for a week, and when we came back there was a limousine waiting for us at the airport. We came right here and I thought the driver got the address wrong, I thought we were going to live at Glenn’s place until we found some-thing larger. The next thing I knew Glenn was carrying me over the threshold. He said if I didn’t like it we could move. If I didn’t like it!”

 “Quite a surprise.”

 “He was full of surprises.”


 She started to say something, then caught herself. “I should be businesslike,” she said. “But I don’t know exactly what I’m supposed to do. I’ve never hired a detective before.”

 “I already have a client, Lisa.”

 “Oh? Did he hire you?”

 “Did who hire me?”


 “No,” I said. “Why would he have hired me?”

 “I don’t know.”

 I plunged in. “A man named Thomas Sadecki hired me,” I said. “His brother was arrested for Glenn’s murder.”

 “And he hired you—”

 “To explore the possibility that his brother didn’t do it. You should understand that I’m not trying to get Sadecki off if he’s guilty. But there’s a slim chance that he’s innocent, in which case your husband’s real killer is walking around free.”

 “Yes, of course.” She thought about it. “You’re trying to find someone in Glenn’s life with a reason to kill him.”

 “That’s one possibility. The other is that he was shot down by a stranger, but that the killer was someone other than George Sadecki. Eleventh Avenue is different at night than it is by day. They stop selling cars and brake jobs and switch over to drugs and sex. That kind of activity puts a lot of wrong people on the street, and it could have been one of them who ran into Glenn.”

 “Or it could have been someone he knew.”

 “Yes, that’s possible, too. I met Glenn for the first time in April, and of course I did see him a couple of times after that around the neighborhood. But I didn’t really know him.”

 “Neither did I.”


 “I told you he swept me off my feet. That was no exag-geration. We met at his office, I think that came up in con-versation the night we all got together—”

 “Yes, I remember.”

 “He made a real play for me, courted me as I’d never been courted before. He gave me a real rush. I talked with him every day. If we didn’t go out, he would call me on the phone. I’d had boyfriends before, I’d had men who were in-terested in me, but nothing like this.

 “And at the same time he didn’t pressure me sexually. We went together for a month before we went to bed, and during that time we probably saw each other an average of three or four times a week. Well, AIDS and all, people don’t auto-matically go to bed on the third or fourth date anymore, but do they wait a month?”

 “I don’t know.”

 “I’d have worried about it, but I had the sense that he was in charge and he knew what he was doing. I always had that feeling. And one night we had dinner in his neighborhood and he took me back to his apartment. ‘You’ll stay over,’ he said. And I thought, okay, great. And we went to bed. And two days later he proposed marriage. ‘We’ll get married,’ he said. Okay, great.”

 “Very romantic.”

 “God, yes. How could I help being in love with him? And even if I weren’t, to tell you the truth I think I would have married him anyway. He was bright, he was rich, he was handsome, and he was crazy about me. If I married him I could have babies, and I could quit struggling to make a liv-ing and concentrate on the kind of art I really wanted to do. No more Madison Street, no more chasing around town on the subway, showing my book to art directors who were more interested in my figure than my work, except for the ones who weren’t interested in women at all. If I’d met someone like Glenn a few years earlier he would have scared the daylights out of me, the way he took charge of everything, but I’d had enough years of coping with things on my own. This is a tough town.”

 “That’s the truth.”

 “I was ready to let somebody else take the helm. And it never felt as though he was pushing me around. With the honeymoon, he chose the destination and made all the arrangements. But he picked a place he knew I would like. And with this apartment, he knew I liked the neighborhood and he knew I loved the idea of being way up high and look-ing out over the city.

 “It was all ready, too. He had it all furnished. Anything I didn’t like could go right back to the store, he said. He hadn’t wanted to bring me home to an empty apartment, but he wanted to make sure it was to my liking, so I should feel free to change anything I wasn’t crazy about. There was one rug I didn’t care for, and we took it right back to Einstein Moomjy and got that one instead, and there was really noth-ing the matter with the original rug but I felt as though I ought to make some little change, as though he expected me to. Do you know what I mean?”


 “He was a wonderful husband,” she said. “Thoughtful, considerate. When I lost the baby he was really there for me. It was a hard time for me and I didn’t really have anyone but Glenn. I never made close friends in New York. I was friendly with a few people in Alphabet City and I lost touch with them when I moved to Madison Street, and the same thing happened with my Madison Street friends when I got married and moved here. It’s the way I am. I’m friendly and I get along with people, but I don’t really connect with them, not in any lasting way.

 “That meant I spent a lot of time alone, because Glenn had to work late some nights, and he sometimes had busi-ness appointments evenings and weekends. I took classes— that’s how I met Elaine—and of course I had my drawing and painting. And I would take myself to the movies, or on a Wednesday afternoon I might go to a matinee. And there are always concerts. With Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Cen-ter so close, it’s not hard to find something to do. And I never minded spending time by myself. Can I get you more coffee?”

 “Not right now.”

 “Since the murder,” she said, “I find I keep turning on the television set. I never watched when I was home by myself. Now I seem to watch it all the time. But I suppose I’ll get over that.”

 “Right now it’s company,” I said.

 “I think that’s exactly what it is. I started watching it for the news. I had this need to see every newscast because there might be something having to do with Glenn’s death, some new development in the case. Then once they’d arrested that man—I’m sorry, I have a block, I can never remember his name.”

 “George Sadecki.”

 “Of course. Once they arrested him, I didn’t care about the news, but I still wanted to hear voices in the house. That’s what the television is, human voices. I think I’m go-ing to stop turning it on. If I need voices I can always talk to myself, can’t I?”

 “I don’t see why not.”

 She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them and resumed speaking her voice sounded tired, strained. “I’ve come to realize that I didn’t know my husband at all,” she said. “Isn’t that curious? I thought I knew him, or at least I didn’t give any thought to the fact that I didn’t know him. And then he was killed, and now I can see that I never knew him at all.”

 “What makes you say that?”

 “Sometime last month,” she said, “he in a very offhand way brought up the possibility of his death. If anything ever happened to him, he said, I wouldn’t have to worry about losing the apartment. Because there was mortgage insur-ance. If he should happen to die, the mortgage would auto-matically be paid off in full.”

 “And you haven’t been able to find the policy?”

 “There is no policy.”

 “People sometimes lie about having insurance coverage,” I told her. “It seems innocent enough to them because they don’t expect to die. He probably just wanted to set your mind to rest. And are you absolutely certain there’s no pol-icy? It might be worthwhile to check with the lender.”

 “There’s no policy,” she said. “There’s no lender.”

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